Land of the Donut-Eaters

By Landy Chase

“They started at once, and went out among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the Lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching Lotus with the Lotus-Eaters without thinking further of their return”.   - From The Odyssey, by Homer

If you are familiar with the works of Homer, then you are no doubt familiar with the story of the Lotus-Eaters. These lazy derelicts were a tribe of people who lived in ancient times on the North Coast of Africa. According to the legend, they were fond of eating a type of lotus petal that induced a perpetual state of apathy, and thus they lived out their days in happy, listless indolence. In ancient times, both the Greek and Roman cultures used the expression “to eat the lotus” to denote laziness.

In our modern society, it has come to my attention that our culture, also, has discovered (or rather, manufactured) a food product that seems to induce exactly the same state of listlessness in certain sales people as Homer’s infamous lotus. I refer, of course, to the common donut.

 Void-of-nutrition breakfast foods such as cruellers, twinkies, and this genre’s Nuclear Option, the notorious apple-cinnamon bear-claw, are standard morning fare at sales seminars. Like the legendary Lotus, these sugary creations cast a zombie-like spell over those poor individuals who partake of them and, consequently, come under their sinister influence. As a sales trainer, I have had ample opportunity to observe, with a measure of pity, the addiction of the poor Donut-Eaters.

The Donut-Eaters are easy to spot in a room full of seminar attendees. They are about as interested in improving their business skills as in getting a root-canal. It’s a safe bet to assume that, were it not for their boss, they would be doing something else.

A profound transformation takes place in their demeanor, however, when the sensors in their nasal passages pick up the unmistakable odor of fried, sugared bread! Previously sullen eyes suddenly light up and scan the room with a silent, urgent yearning. FREE FOOD! Now, we have a highly motivated sales person! If only the Donut-eaters could channel their enthusiasm for the Donut into an enthusiasm for career success. Instead, they get their fix, return to their seats and munch away in happy, catatonic solitude.

Surely the most common complaint that I hear from managers is the frustration that they experience in trying to motivate their Donut-Eaters. Because sales people’s performance is directly tied to business production, Donut-eaters here tend to cause more acute problems than, say, accounting or inventory management. That said, here are a few observations regarding management’s role in working with Donut Eaters:

  • Your job as a manager is not to motivate people. Your job is to create a positive, supportive working environment where motivated people get the coaching and training that they need to succeed.

  • Donut Eaters are not motivated. You therefore cannot get good sales results from a Donut Eater.

  • Twenty percent of sales people in the marketplace have the motivation required to attain outstanding results. Sixty percent are content just making a living. The bottom twenty percent are the Donut-Eaters.

  • This also means that 80% of all hiring decisions are mistakes.

  • The best way to avoid problems with Donut-Eaters is to avoid hiring them. This is why interviewing skills are critical to your success.

I have to believe that, somewhere in the Mediterranean, there still exists a lonely, wind-swept island where people lay like walruses upon a rocky shore, just as they did in Homer’s time. The only difference is that, instead of eating Lotus petals, they are gobbling down Krispy Kremes.

Read other articles and learn more about Landy Chase.

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